Test Decks

Well, that’s that. No more or for me, or the rest of Team PhatBeats. No more Hermits, no more and definitely no more . Last weekend I attended the last Type II tourney that I’ll ever play Urza’s Saga block cards in, and I can’t say I’m unhappy. I took a version (only one card…

Well, that’s that. No more Bargain or Replenish for me, or the rest of Team PhatBeats. No more Hermits, no more Masticore and definitely no more Rancor.

Last weekend I attended the last Type II tourney that I’ll ever play Urza’s Saga block cards in, and I can’t say I’m unhappy. I took a version (only one card different) of the Replenish deck that Scott Wills took to Worlds and became Worlds Standard Champion with. Hell, last chance I had to play it so why not?

I did say in my last article that I’d be taking Counter Burn and had several people comment on my change of deck. The only excuse I can give is that we tested Counter Burn for most of the week and couldn’t get its win percentage high enough against Speed Green. I expected quite a bit of green (and there was; six speed green net decks and three others), and couldn’t bring myself to take a deck that I knew was going to get so hammered.

I ended up having a fun day and coming 9th out of 45 players with a four wins, one draw and a two loss record. Not too bad, but not as good as I’d hoped.

So, what now? What decks do we play next tourney? I’m glad to say I have no idea. There are so many ideas popping up over the internet right now that its a real job to separate the wheat from the chaff, purely because of the sheer volume of new decks.

I was going to put up a few of my own decks for your perusal, but just about everyone has beaten me to it. Dave Meddish has put together a post-Invasion version of Jay Schneider’s Brawler Sligh. So’ve I, but there’s no point in going over old ground. Jay Schneider himself has posted a number of noteworthy decks, including two of my favourites: Merfolk and Leechageddon.

So, what to talk about? Well, I’ve decided to revisit a proposition I made this time last year in Block Rotation, one of my last submissions to Star City before they accepted me as a feature writer. (Sorry — can’t find it to hyperlink that sucker, or I would in a heartbeat — The Ferrett)

In Block Rotation I tried to write down my thoughts on how you might go about building a reasonable deck to take to the first Standard tournament after a Block rotates out of Type II. Basically I suggested that you should try to build a number of test decks to test against, decks that have different styles and ways of winning. Not a new idea at all. I also suggested that you build a number of mono-decks and play them off against each other to continually make them better, until you have a base to start testing new versions of old archetypes against.

Well, that’s what I’ve been doing for Team PhatBeats this week. Andy is playing Jay Schneider’s Merfolk, but he needs something to playtest against. We all need to playtest against a number of different styles to see how a deck works, to get a feel for a deck. In order to help, I took a look around the net and put the following decks together:

Brawler Sligh

Creatures (20):
4x Veteran Brawlers
2x Spur Grappler
4x Branded Brawlers
4x Rage Weaver
3x Skizzik
3x Chimeric Idol

Other Spells (18):
4x Tangle Wire
4x Shock
4x Seal of Fire
3x Rhystic Lightning
3x Hammer of Bogardan

Land (22):
16x Mountain
4x Rishadan Port
2x Keldon Necropolis

This one is quite obviously based on Jay Schneider’s Pre-Invasion Brawler Sligh. Dave Meddish has gone into a bit of detail on the card selections in his version, so I won’t bore you with my thoughts.

Rebel White

Creatures (21):
4x Longbow Archer
4x Ramosian Sergeant
4x Steadfast Guard
1x Lin-Sivvi, Defiant Hero
1x Ramosian Lieutenant
4x Benalish Trapper
3x Fresh Volunteers

Other Spells (17):
3x Armageddon
4x Crusade
2x Disenchant
3x Parallax Wave
1x Seal of Cleansing
2x Reverent Mantra
1x Wrath of God
1x Enlightened Tutor

Land (22):
4x Rishadan Port
18x Plains

This is based heavily on the only Rebel deck to make it into the US Nationals last year, as played by Elliot Fung. I can’t seem to play pure white decks without at least one each of Wrath or Geddon, so the Wrath was added. The loss of Mother of Runes hurts a lot, especially with all the fat creatures in the environment. I think Benalish Trapper may help out where Mother used to. The Trapper doesn’t help out against Blastoderm like Mother used to, but very little does at the moment. Mr B. Derm is a beat stick…

PhatBeats Not So Speed Green

Creatures (24):
4x Llanowar Elves
4x Stampede Driver
4x River Boa
3x Elvish Archers
2x Silt Crawler
3x Chimeric Idol
4x Blastoderm

Other Spells (18):
4x Giant Growth
3x Invigorate
4x Land Grant
2x Creeping Mold
3x Tangle Wire
2x Hurricane

Land (18):
18x Forest

This is a deck all of my own. I’ve tried to fit creatures along the mana curve and so it has eight one-turn drops, seven second-turn drops, five third-turn drops and four fourth-turn drops. Some of the ideas for the other spells have come straight from the only speed green deck to make it to the Top Eight in the US nationals this year. I’ve added the Molds myself – I can’t abide not being able to cope with artifacts and enchantments.

Finally, I’ve put together a highly speculative control deck:

PhatBeats Flying Control

Creatures (10):
2x Alexi, Zephyr Mage
4x Spiketail Drake
4x Spiketail Hatchling

Other Spells (26):
4x Counterspell
4x Prohibit
4x Opt
4x Fact or Fiction
4x Thwart
3x Dominate
3x Wash Out

4x Rishadan Port
20x Island

It’s a totally different animal from the other three decks, as it plays a totally different way. The Drakes and Alexis are the only real ways to win, but they also offer a degree of control and bring the deck up to twenty counters of one type of another. A lot of this deck is about trying out new cards like Fact or Fiction and Prohibit.

As is happens, Fact or Fiction is great, either getting you a card you really need or putting you two or three cards further into your deck. Prohibit is also very good. If you look at most of the spells people are playing at the moment, not many are more than four mana… not yet, anyway.

I did try to make up a mono-black deck but there are a few problems. The well known mono-black archetypes have been gutted. Suicide Black has lost all its Skittering creatures, the Negators, and Lurking Evils. Control Black has lost Duress and, more importantly, Yawgmoth’s Will.

I can’t emphasize enough how important the Will was to the Control Black decks that abounded during the US nationals this year. Sure, Vampiric Tutor meant that you could get pretty much any card, but it was the Will that let you keep using them. The Will gave you twice as many of every card in your deck. There isn’t very much in Type II right now that even compares – especially not Yawgmoth’s Agenda.

Beginning with these four test decks, I started to play them off against one another. The results are as you might expect. The blue deck can’t cope with any of the others unless it sees Wash Out and gets a little lucky.

The other decks beat each other pretty regularly. White beats green if it sees some trappers and green doesn’t see too many Blastoderms. Red beats white if it sees burn at just the right time and white is unlucky enough to not see a Disenchant just when it needs one. The red and green match up comes down to which deck sees more instants. If green sees enough Giant Growths and Invigorates, it wins. If red sees enough burn, red wins.

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be tuning these for the team and adding sideboards, whilst the team tests their own decks and some decks from the net against these and each other. We’re hoping we’ll be ready for Invasion in Type II, we really are. All in all, they play quite well and can kill quite early. Perfect for testing other decks against, so that’s what we’ve begun doing, starting with a couple of decks of my own and Jay Schneider’s three-colour Merfolk deck.

The results have been encouraging. Merfolk beats green if it sees a pair of Zombie Merfolk. Merfolk beats white if it sees a Wash Out and a few Undermines. Merfolk beats red if it sees its pro:red guys. It can also lose to each of these – which is good, as it means that my decks aren’t too bad, and we have a lot of practice to do with the merfolk deck.

My own decks have been coming along quite nicely too. I can’t really make it all the way through an article without giving you something of my own design, so I’ll leave you with two of them.

The first is a variation of Not So Speed Green that seems to be quite good. I wondered if Armageddon might be better than Tangle Wire – and this is what we came up with.

PhatBeats Speedgeddon

Creatures (25):
4x Llanowar Elves
4x Stampede Drivers
4x River Boa
3x Kavu Titan
2x Noble Panther
4x Chimeric Idol
4x Blastoderm

Other Spells (13):
4x Giant Growth
3x Armadillo Cloak
3x Armageddon
3x Wax/Wane

Land (22):
4x Brushland
3x Elfhame Palaces
2x Plains
13x Forests

The deck has a simple aim: Cast a creature every turn for four turns, then cast Armageddon. The numbers need a little work at the moment. I’m not sure whether there should be four Armageddons or not. Wax/Wane seems to work well, and I’ve got Monkeys in the sideboard to make up for the artifact destruction deficiency. Noble Panther was chosen over Silt Crawler purely to see how good it is. Silt Crawler may go back or it might stay out.

Kavu Titan is interesting and can be great late game; I’m not sure how good they are early game yet, but we’ll see. (Also keep in mind Bennie Smith admonition that a Parallax Wave could effectively”reset” your Titan – Say, is that right under 6th Edition rules? Sheldon? – The Ferrett)

It’s been suggested that I swap the Elves for Birds of Paradise so that I can have a flying attacker, I’m not sure but I’m going to try it out. The only other card I might like to see is Thunderscape Apprentice. With their white ability, they add a level of control to the deck that could be especially useful after Armageddon has been cast.

Here’s the last deck I’ll leave you with; it started as a joke, but has won some games and you never know, someone might be able to do something with it…

PhatBeats Pure Burn

Creatures (4):
4x Skizzix

Other Spells (40):
4x Shock
4x Seal of Fire
4x Assault/Battery
4x Hammer of Bogardan
4x Rhystic Lightning
4x Zap
4x Flame Rift
4x Breath of Darigaaz
4x Mages’ Contest
4x Chromatic Sphere

Land (16):
16 Mountains

It’s fun to play, but easy to beat. If you do consider playing it, I’d just offer the friendly reminder that Warmth is in Sixth Edition and shuts down sixteen of the spells in this deck.

The Chromatic Spheres thin the deck a little, helping you get to that next burn spell or third Mountain. Mage’s Contest is great. Once your opponent is low on life you can pretty much counter anything you want, because they won’t have the life to win the bidding. In fact, if this deck has shown us anything, it’s how good Mage’s Contest is. Try it out for yourself and see.

Next week I’m going to take a trip back in time and look at Necropotence decks over the last five years. Can a similar style deck exist today, or is Burning Spectre just another flying 2/2 that will sit in our trade folders for the next two years?

Cheers, I am a Brit by the way, Jim.
Team PhatBeats
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